UI officials hold COVID-19 briefing, discuss return to campus 

Ryan+Reeder+looks+over+his+rapid+Covid-19+test+at+the+ARC+on+Feb.+1.++The+university+has+provided+a+Covid-19+briefing+about+returning+to+campus+for+the+2022+spring+semester.+

Cameron Krasucki

Ryan Reeder looks over his rapid Covid-19 test at the ARC on Feb. 1. The university has provided a Covid-19 briefing about returning to campus for the 2022 spring semester.

By Amrita Bhattacharyya, News Editor

University officials discussed the return to campus and COVID-19 in the latest of the COVID-19 briefing series on Jan. 11. 

The briefing comes as COVID-19 cases are spiking nationwide and the Omicron variant continues to spread. 

“One thing to know about Omicron is that it is spreading very quickly, ” said Rebecca Smith, epidemiologist and member of the COVID-19 SHIELD team. “It is highly infectious, but it does not appear to have as high a probability of severe disease.” 

Smith said the Omicron variant is able to invade the immune response from just two shots of the vaccine or from prior infection and recommends getting all three shots of the vaccine. 

Andreas Cangellaris, vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, says the University’s “multilayered approach” to handling COVID-19 contributes to the decision of not having fully online classes this semester. 

This approach includes factors such as the University’s rapid saliva testing protocol, mandating boosters for eligible individuals and recommending that faculty, students and staff wear an N95 or KN95 mask. 

The University began recommending these higher grade masks Jan. 14, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated mask guidelines.

However, in terms of testing, the University has chosen not to require mandatory testing for everyone all semester. 

“The truth is that regular testing of all fully vaccinated individuals is just less useful than targeted testing,” Smith said. 

The SHIELD team will continue to identify locations on campus which have increased cases and ask individuals in those areas to test every other day until cases improve. However, unvaccinated individuals will be required to test every other day. 

Danita Brown Young, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, says the University has a comprehensive digital testing compliance system. 

“Students out of compliance may receive student discipline up to and including dismissal,” Young said in the briefing. 

In terms of isolation, Young says quarantine spaces available on campus will be reserved only for students who cannot isolate safely off campus. 

“There are limited isolation and quarantine spaces available here on our campus,” Young said. 

Therefore, students who test positive prior to arriving on campus will be asked to isolate themselves at their permanent residence. Those who test positive after arriving on campus will be also asked to do the same, if they are able to do so safely. 

Ultimately, University officials agree that the start of this semester will bring another spike in COVID-19 cases as students flock back to campus. 

“We have seen a surge in cases at the beginning of every semester since this pandemic began, and we will expect another surge in cases as students come back, especially because we know that cases are surging across the country,” Lee said. 

Lee encourages wearing high-quality masks, avoiding large in-person gatherings and getting tested as soon as returning to campus. 

“We do know that the surge will come, but we can be cautious about it and keep the secondary spread to a minimum,” Lee said.  

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